Tag Archives: gaming

WHITE STAR: A Rambling Review

I have a curse where every time I say “I don’t need another OSR game!” I open up my wallet and acquire another one.

white-star-single-covers-frontWhite Star is written by James M. Spahn and released by Barrel Rider Games. The gist of it is they took the rules from Swords & Wizardry Whitebox and hacked it into their own super slick science fiction game.  Now, I’m already a rabid fan of Kevin Crawford’s Stars Without Number, and I was hesitant to toss $10 at a lighter, simpler game. Especially when SWN is a free pdf on its own, and is filled with some of the coolest toys in the sandbox.

But White Star hasn’t disappointed. Yes, it sticks with its white box roots pretty easily (matter of fact, it’s completely compatible with S&W Whitebox and suggests having your fantasy characters leaving their planet without any conversion necessary.) There’s only a handful of classes (Aristocrat, Mercenary, Pilot and Star Knight) and a couple generic “races as classes” (Alien Brute, Alien Mystic, and a Robot class.) It’s pretty straight forward, with only the classic six core abilities, a single “Saving Throw” rating, hit points and equipment (and maybe some spell like powers for the mystical classes.)

Where the Star Shines the Brightest

White Star caters to the pulpy, space-saga style games. As you can tell from the class name Star Knight, a particular movie franchise about wars in the stars is a major influence here. But its author has also made call outs to Flash Gordon and John Carter of Mars here. Spaceship combat is about as straight forward as personal combat, and keeping track of ship statistics isn’t anywhere near a headache. It may not have the random tables and setting tags that SWN has, but it does offer a nice broad-stroke setting with just the right amount of details for a GM to work with, leaving elbow room for them to expand how they want.

WS
Taken from the Barrel Rider Games FB page.

The layout is also formatted for a digest-sized, single-column style that has become a personal preference. I’ve been reading this book on my phone as much as my tablet or PC, and it loads fast and doesn’t hurt the eyes. It’s slick, with good font choices and decent artwork littered throughout. There are some typos and needed errata, but the folks behind it have been pretty frequent with the corrections. Once things are finalized, and the POD books are available, I do plan on purchasing myself one. But, in the mean time, I have no hesitation at the thought of printing out my own copy of the 127 page book on my home printer.

But what’s easily it’s greatest strength is the love and support it’s getting from the fanbase and third party publishers
already. The game is OGL, and released with its own compatibility standards. Hitting up the White Star Google Plus Community bombards you with tons of house rules and independently released products. Matter of fact, I’m going to probably do a future write up over the Hyperspace Messenger add-ons written by Bill Logan of DwD Studios.  The game stands fine on its own, but anyone who has followed me long enough knows I love games that encourage tinkering and DIY expansion.

TL;DR Version

White Star is a fun Science Fiction title that takes the modesty of whitebox rules and does a lot more than just adding lasers.  It captures a particular cinematic or pulp flavor, and doesn’t leave you referencing a bunch of tables or rules when aiming for the stars. It may feel somewhat simplistic compared to even other OSR-influenced space games, but it’s a solid foundation that is easy to build upon.

 

SHADOW OPS: Street Shaman

Last couple characters were pretty combat heavy, let’s roll up some support shall we?

Today’s pre-made is a Snake Shaman. I went total utility belt with this guy, and he’d be a welcome addition to any runner team. I’m also using him to showcase a couple things about making characters in my SHADOW OPS hack:

For starters, all Magicians use the same skill. Hermetics and Shamans are two sides of the same coin. I also didn’t bother writing up all of the totems/mentor spirits because, frankly, I’m lazy. Instead, characters who want to incorporate their ties to a mentor spirit into the games should just use them in a descriptor. For instance: this chummer is a Snake shaman. Snake was a healer, detector and deceiver of sorts. Snake also wasn’t keen on combat. At the basic level, the descriptor of being a snake shaman would imply similar personality characteristics in the character: he’s cautious, tends to his wounded comrades, and is hesitant about being caught up in combat. Although not written in the current draft, I feel a GM who wants more mechanics to totems/mentor spirits could get away just declaring +10 bonuses / -10 penalties for spells and actions that fall in line with the mentor’s personality.

Those used to SR magician characters will probably feel underwhelmed by the number of spells they can start off with here. The key thing is that A) There’s only 16 or so spells in BareBones Fantasy, and B) Those spells offer a range of effects compared to other systems.  Take Cleanse, for example. This single spell can be used to remove poisons, diseases, toxins, conditions such as blindness, etc. At level 3, it can be used to “cleanse” death from a freshly fallen comrade. Another factor here is this character in particular also took levels in Enchanter. Enchanters under the BBF rules can practically cast any of the 16 spells. The catch is: you’re doing so either in enchanting items (foci), brewing potions (or making fetishes), or at the speediest: casting runes on a person or item (which still takes a few turns to pull off.)

Lastly, for those who’ve never played Covert Ops, I’m listing the contents of the equipment packs bought. It’s so much easier at character creation to just allow packs to be acquired. I keep listing “Runner Packs” as a replacement for the Operative Pack every character starts with, although if I was running a contracted merc unit or corporate security squad, I’d probably stick to the original.

Race: Human

Street Shaman from 1st ed. Shadowrun
Street Shaman from 1st ed. Shadowrun

Origin: Shamanic Lodge Member (Perks: Shaman, In-Tuned Domain)
Archetype: Street Shaman
Descriptors:
Mentored by Snake
The rain doesn’t phase me.
Distrusts people in business suits.


STR: 50                  DEX: 55
LOG: 65                 WIL: 60

BP: 25    DR: 5      INIT: 2   MOV: 8
Bones: 2

Skills:
Magician Level 1 (Primary): 63%
Scout Level 1 (Secondary): 53%
Enchanter Level 1: 43%
Medic Level 1: 43%
Spells:
Heal, Cleanse
Gear & Resources:
Runner’s Pack: PDA, encrypted credstick, commlink, etc
Medic Pack: canteen, flares, surgical instruments and tools, bandages, hypodermic needles, several doses of common pharmaceuticals, defibrillator, appropriate professional credentials, etc.
Survivalist Pack: backpack, boot knife, machete, 10 days of military-style rations, compass,
collapsible tent, compact sleeping bag, GPS system, mess kit, flares, etc.

Bullet Proof Vest, Pistol (w/ Laser Sights, 4 clips of ammo), Talismonger (Basic Contact).
570 ¥

SHADOW OPS: Street Samurai

Oh man, the Street Samurai.

Years before I would know who Molly Millions was, I was a dorky 9 year old kid who laughed when my dad referred to my older brother’s weekend pastime as “Dungeons & Dumbass.” But then one Saturday morning, my brother had left out a book he borrowed from a friend. A book with a hot elf chick on the cover in cut off jeans, a book filled with gritty sci-fi urban landscapes, tribal shamans, and fantasy characters with electrodes plugged into their skull. And as I flipped through the full-color archetypes, the I saw turned the page to see this menacing commando with chrome eyes and wolverine claws. And at that moment I thought to myself: “WOW! I WANT TO PLAY THIS!”

And go figure… any time I showed my pre-pubescent friends the book, they all wanted to be that guy. And then I showed them trolls and they wanted to be a Troll version of that guy. (Except for the one friend who wanted to play a Dwarf Mage. That guy is a famous musician now.) Anyways, my rambling point is: When you say Shadowrun, the first thing that pops into my head is this artwork of the street samurai. Sure, he’s not an SR universe exclusive. But the Sixth World was my introduction to both role-playing games and the cyberpunk genre (which would lead me to other awesome sci-fi settings and concepts.) I didn’t even know cyberpunk was a thing, until I saw Cyberpunk 2020 and was like “What? That’s just Shadowrun without magic!” And my brother corrected me, and my fragile little mind was blown.

Street_Samurai
Original Street Samurai artwork that appeared in the first two editions of Shadowrun.

So today, you don’t get a cool character name or a back story. You just see the fruits of me sitting down and going: I want to recreate THAT GUY!

(And by That Guy, I mean the photo and not the original pre-made character.)

Race: Human
Origin: Military Veteran (Perk: Trained Soldier)
Archetype: Street Samurai
Descriptors*:
Can be really nasty when backed into a corner.
Impulsive; hates to sit around planning.
Likes to drink, hates to be drunk.

STR: 65                  DEX: 60 (70)
LOG: 55                 WIL: 50

BP: 33    DR: 10   INIT: 2   MOV: 10    Essence Toll: 56%
Bones: 2

Skills:
Soldier Level 1 (Primary): 65%
Martial Artist Level 1 (Secondary): 53%
Thief Level 1: 45%
Implants:
Subdermal Armor (Moderate)
Targeting System (Moderate)
Reflex Implant
Claws (2D+1 Damage)
Light Amplification Eyes
Maneuvers:
Move-by (allows a free sprint action with a martial attack.)
Point-Blank Shot (+10 to shoot a target 2 spaces away)
9mm Master Key

Gear & Resources:
Runner Pack, Assault Rifle (Heavier Caliber, 5 clips of ammo), Muscle Car, Infiltration Pack, Fake SIN (Complex Cover Identity), Pistol (Heavier Caliber, w/ Concealed Spring Holster, 4 clips of ammo) DocWagon Contract (treated as “Commandos” Backup purchase, except all medics.) Low-rent apartment (Traveller’s Lifestyle), four fragmentation grenades, Underworld Connections (Basic Contact Group), 4140¥ remaining.
Notes:
+2 STR Damage
+3 DEX Damage
Moderate Targeting System grants +10 to firearms checks, may ricochet bullets off nearby environment. -10 per bounce, -2 damage per bounce.

 

Quick Thoughts after creating That Guy:

  • Neumann Protocol implants versus SR Cyberware has a distinct difference in feel, but I kinda dig it. Eye implants are pretty invasive versus SR’s cybereyes, and the Targeting System is brutal on the cost compared to Smartgun Links. But there’s also a bit of “oomph” to these implants — the ricochet feature from Neumann Protocol is kickass imo (I always play cinematic rule of cool, even in dark gritty settings.)
  • Subdermal Armor made me realize I needed to make a house calling on stacking armor. In SR, dermal plating added to the stat that was used to roll to resist physical damage, whereas in CO subdermal armor straight up adds to how much damage gets soaked. It’s a difference in mechanic, but it made me realize that it opens the floodgates for someone to take subdermal armor, but on full Body Armor, and in doing so easily have a DR of 20-30.So, I’m contemplating a house rule that a character is only allowed to stack one piece of “natural” armor (Troll’s natural Dermal Plating) and one piece of “unnatural” armor (subdermal armor implants, armor jackets etc.)
  • Wanted to recognize I was stumped for descriptors, so I took advantage of the 100 Descriptors for Covert Ops off the DwD site.

Mashed-Up: The Strange, Accelerated.

Revised Intro: 5/10/2016

What follows is a set of house rules I originally came up with to run The Strange by Monte Cook Games using Fate Accelerated by Evil Hat Studios. At the time, I wasn’t too sure how I felt about the Cypher System. Since then, I’ve ran quite a few games using both The Strange and the Cypher System Rulebook. It’s grown on me, and it’s one of my favorite new systems.

That said, there’s still a lot that merging Cypher and Fate can provide. The biggest advantage is how Fate handles Aspects, and relies on the narrative to define the rules. As long as you and your GM agree on what a descriptor on your sheet means, you can rock it. On the flipside, I think Cypher has the strength in allowing newcomers to cherry pick descriptors, types and foci to build a character in a somewhat “Mad Libs” fashion. My only gripe is then you’re stuck with an ability progression that is somewhere between d20 Feats and a Diablo-style skill tree.

This homebrew mashup sort of takes the best of both worlds, and allows you to quickly get to playing. It allows the fluid flexibility of Fate Accelerated with the options and guided concept building of Cypher (as well as Cypher’s effort system) with minimal adjustments.

Note: This was originally written for The Strange, prior to Cypher System Rulebook coming out. I also hadn’t played or read much Numenera at the time. Even though I reference The Strange heavily, I think any Cypher game could convert using these pretty easily.

Continue reading Mashed-Up: The Strange, Accelerated.